Friday, April 20, 2018

St Genevieve

Stephanie and I decided to try St Genevieve in Minneapolis for our latest dinner adventure. It is a French bistro style cafe- very cute, very small. Reservations were not that difficult to get a few days in advance though. It opened min-2016, so it has taken us awhile to get around to this one.

frites with bernaise - very fresh and crisp
celery soup
oysters - cute presentation
sauces for oysters
scallop and squash
agnolotti - this is basically a type of filled pasta- very good. 
skate wing - unusual, it was a light fish, not at all fishy or strongly flavored. 
chocolate brownie
panna cotta

The service was excellent throughout our visit, very attentive, very helpful, very friendly. We enjoyed everything we ordered. It is hard to pick a favorite item we had- I think the scallop was very good and the skate wing was something I'd never tried before and it was delicious. The menu changes often though, I suppose based on seasonal availability of items. The experience overall was wonderful, a relaxing experience and delicious food made for a fun evening.

St Genevieve
5003 Bryant Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419
Phone: (612) 353-4843

Monday, April 16, 2018

Young Joni & Back Bar

We'd been wanting to back to Young Joni, but getting in is not easy. We decided to try going early and getting a spot at the bar. No such luck, the bar was full when we arrived, but we put our names on the list and headed to the back bar to try getting in there.

The Cocktail Formerly Known as Paisley Park

The wait to get into the back bar was only 10 minutes or so and we enjoyed waiting there until our table in the restaurant was ready. I think we waited 75-90 minutes total. The drinks at the back bar were excellent too.
The cauliflower includes shishito peppers, saffron chermoula, pickled fresno, golden raisins, almond picada and cauliflower yogurt.
Basque pizza topped with Spanish chorizo, mozzarella, goat cheese, piquillo pepper, red onion, Castelvetrano olives and preserved lemon.
whole fish with one piece was branzino, which was a special. was very light, flaky and delicious.  

The service was excellent and the food was amazing. The pizza is perfect and the fresh, whole fish is great. Don't be afraid to try a whole fish! The cauliflower is spicy, sweet and creamy, so many good flavors. There's a reason Young Joni is insanely busy and popular. It's worth the trouble to get in.

Young Joni
165 13th Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
Phone: (612) 345-5719

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

JW Marriott Bloomington and Cedar + Stone Urban Table

Michele, Kelly and I spent a weekend at the Mall of America JW Marriott to celebrate Michele's birthday a little early this year. I think we are on our 3rd annual MOA girls weekend as of this year. It is always fun to get away even if it is just for one night. We have lots of fun shopping, dining and just spending time with each other.
This year we stayed at the JW Marriott. (Last year was the Radisson Blu.) Kelly booked us in a suite this year! It was a large room with two rooms plus a gigantic bathroom.
Huge bathroom!

TV in bedroom
living room
Nice view of the airport and the MOA parking lots.
We had brunch before we checked out at the Cedar + Stone restaurant. I had the fried egg sandwich with candied bacon, white cheddar, garlic aioli, english muffin loaf. The breakfast potatoes were a mixture of potato types and actually quite good, probably because sweet potatoes were included.
biscuits and gravy
cedar and stone breakfast

The food and service at Cedar + Stone were both excellent, though a bit slow at the outset. It was busy and they explained it would be a bit until they could take out order. But our order was taken pretty quickly, so it was a bit odd we were told that.

We also enjoyed happy hour in the bar on Saturday afternoon while we waited for our suite to be ready. Oddly, it wasn't ready until 5pm, but we enjoyed drinks and apps in the bar a lot. Also, the shower did not drain, so that was not great either. Think they also forgot to come and setup the sofa bed for Kelly, we had to call and request it. The hiccups were a bummer, but the room looked nice anyway. I'm not even sure if Kelly mentioned the issues at the front desk.

JW Marriott
2141 Lindau Ln
Minneapolis, MN 55425
Phone: (612) 615-0100

Thursday, April 5, 2018

O'Cheese Grilled Cheese Shop

The O'Cheese food truck recently became a permanent skyway spot. It opened to huge lines and excitement from fans. I waited a few weeks until things seemed to calm down a bit and went early. The lines are a bit confusing as the order line and waiting area are next to one another in a small space.

I tried the Not-so-Classic with sharp cheddar, havarti, dubliner irish cheddar on white bread with a side of tomato soup. The tomato soup was very good- rich and flavorful. The sandwich was pretty good, there is almost too much cheese on it, if that is possible. It was very cheesy and gooey. The key to the best flavor is to dip the grilled cheese into the soup for the perfect combination of salty and savory.

I think if the food truck had enough fame the skyway spot could thrive. And maybe some new menu items down the line would be interesting as well. Either way, new places in the skyway for lunch options are always welcomed in my book.

705 S Marquette Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Phone: (612) 568-5737

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Rabbit Hole

I've heard a lot about Rabbit Hole from various media sources, best wings, excellent chef and such, but we had not made time to visit. We should have gone a long time ago. The menu is interesting and fun and the beer list and cocktails are great too.

I had the poke mon, this was the rice with fish flakes. 
The fish and other items were in another bowl- Hawaiian Style marinated salmon sashimi, avocado, mango, and wakame. This was a great poke bowl- the fish was fresh tasting and the accompaniments were great additions.
The "wangs" or wings often make the best of lists in the area. And they certainly were tasty with a flavorful sauce and crisp exterior and juicy interior. The Singapore chili sauce was quite salty though. I'd try another sauce next time.
John had the California sub, which was more along the lines of a sorta with fried chicken, avocado, pickled onion, pico de gallo, bacon, avocado crema, jalapeƱo hot sauce and served with house cut fries. The fries were excellent, freshly cut and crisp. John loved the sandwich, it was super flavorful and perfect all around. 

The food was great and the service was good as well. I'd like to return and try some of the other menu times as the tacos and bop bowls sound great.

Rabbit Hole
920 E Lake St Suite 101
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Phone: 612) 236-4526

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Negril, Jamaica 2.8-15.2018 Couples Swept Away - 10th Anniversary edition

We were excited to go back to Couples Swept Away for our winter vacation this year. We had been there 10 years ago for our honeymoon and loved it, but never had a chance to go back. We were a bit concerned that the resort and dining options wouldn't be as good as on our last visit, but the reviews on Trip Advisor and Facebook groups were glowing in most cases, and they still get a lot of repeat guests. And overall, were were very happy with our entire trip.

Our flight on Delta was fine, we had upgraded to Comfort Plus as a Christmas gift to ourselves and we lucked out and had the row of 3 seats to ourselves.Since we were close to the front of the plane we were one of the first off the plane and found no lines for customs and immigration and zipped right though to the Couples Lounge by bag claim.
Couples Lounge at Montego Bay airport 
There is a bar in the lounge so you can enjoy an drink while you wait for your transportation to the resort. There is also a private restroom, which I used to change clothes. We had considered doing Club MoBay on arrival, but didn't find it to be necessary.

The van ride to the resort was uneventful and took about 90 minutes as expected. At the resort, they told us they were upgrading our room, but actually this room type was one category lower. We checked out the room, went to dinner and went back to the front desk to ask when we could be moved to the room type we booked. Apparently our type was full and they ended up giving us $100 resort credit for the trouble.

love the robes in the room!

Also we had a second floor room and the bathroom ceiling is open to the rest of the room, so not a lot of privacy!
mini bar area
The patio in this room type is a lot larger, which is nice.

This was a beachfront suite. It was OK, but the slats for windows really let in a lot of sound. We could hear the main building with the buffet and everyone walking by. It was far too noisy for us and I barely slept.

view from the patio of 1231
I didn't take any notes like I usually do for our trips, so some of the info is a bit vague. I really got into relaxing this time and didn't worry so much about documenting everything. Plus, pretty much all of our daily activities included simply sitting on the beach each day, so there are not a lot of things to report. I read a lot of magazines, and even finished one book and started a second book.

Our first dinner was at Patois and the photos are above. We found all of the food and service throughout of visit to be excellent.
After dinner we went to the main building (that houses the buffet) and checked out the martini bar. The bartenders up there were excellent, and very fast and friendly.
beach view
The next few photos were from lunch at Seagrapes. The service was kind of slow, but the food was very tasty.

By late afternoon our room was finally ready. We were supposed to be in a Beachfront Veranda Suite. This room type was better as we were higher up on the third floor and the doors had glass, which blocked out a lot more sound.

The bathroom had been updated since our last visit, in particular I believe they took out a bathtub shower combo and out in the shower with the glass wall. It looks nice, but water goes all over the bathroom.

 minibar and TV. The juices in the minibar were fantastic- the brand was Jamaican and I'd never heard of it before. We also made friends with the guy that restocked the minibar, so we had plenty of Red Stripes throughout our stay. 
View of the rain from our patio-- it rained a couple of afternoons during our stay, but didn't last long in most cases.
The next few photos were taken during the catamaran tour. 

I believe our room was in the building on the far right.
Another meal from Patois is below.

I think this was from lobster night...

more rain
After the rain, we decided to go to Rick's Cafe. We took a taxi there, which was nice because we could leave when we wanted to, the driver waited for us. The atmosphere was along the lines of spring break with loud music and the beer were overpriced at $5 each. They had a band playing and a nice sunset view though.

These are terrible, dark photos from the Lemongrass restaurant. 

This shows how close our building was to the beach. Building, sidewalk, beach, water are all right in front of the building. I should note we were in the same building as our first trip 10 years ago, just on the third floor instead of the second floor.

Since we had been to the resort in the past, we were invited to the Repeaters dinner. My goodness, they really go all out and make returning guests feel special. Since it had been over four years since our last visit, the only benefits were were offered were the sister resort exchange and the Repeater's dinner. I believe if you return more regularly you get resort credits and special logo gifts.

Yup, a bonus steak and lobster dinner! By the way, we found seafood to be just so so at the resort, often overcooked. The steak and chicken were always very good and very juicy and tender.
At the Repeater's dinner were were seated with the manager of the spa. It was nice to get to meet her and talk to her at length. Each table had a manager of some department at the report at their table to interact with.
Breakfast at Patois- it was a nice change from the buffet, though that was faster and had lots of choices. I just forgot to take buffet photos.

Next are photos of dinner at Feathers. The service and food were excellent. Love the Couples twisted palms logo so much. 

We did the trading places day and went to Couples Negril one day to check it out and compare it to Swept Away. We found it to be a much smaller resort with a smaller beach and only one pool. The rooms are setup in a few horseshoe groupings, so not many are super close to the water, the whole resort is set back from the water quite a bit more than Swept Away.
Since we were at the resort on Valentine's day they had a garden party that evening. It was quite elaborate with a band, a full bar, appetizers and other fun surprises.

One of the girls from the entertainment team was telling us that they all plan the events like this and how much work they put into them. I have to say, all of their work is impressive and much appreciated.
After the Valentine party, we had dinner at Patois patio restaurant. This was probably my favorite as I prefer to be waited on for dinner and the buffet didn't look that great when we did check it out a couple times around dinner.

I don't have the underwater photos yet, but we did do the snorkeling tour and the glass bottom boat tour, both on the same morning. The glass bottom boat tour was OK, not that exciting, but the snorkeling tour would maybe be worth going on a couple times as it was really good. We saw a lot of fish and the guides were very good. They brought good to feed the fish and made sure there was a lot for everyone to see.

loved the yogurt at the Palms buffet, so rich and creamy!
a few breakfast pastries- freshly made every day on site!
amazing views! No filter! 
my last mango daiquiri.....sad face 

The transportation to the airport was fine, the driver was very chatty, working for his tip I guess and the flight home was uneventful. We lucked out and managed to get a whole row to ourselves on the way home as well.

We really enjoyed Couples Swept Away on our second visit. We need to make sure we go back before four year pass so we can take advantage of the repeater bonus resort credits. I would also like to visit the other side of the island and stay at Ocho Rios or Tower Isle.